To The Lake

Before there was nothing. Just the slow whirr of the air conditioning. The sound of the train rolling over the tracks and the languid murmur of passengers idly talking in the humid carriage.  There was a fear that came from her that she pushed away, but as soon as the train stopped it arose in her so fiercely that she could hear her heart beating.  
   Natascha scrambled to put her belongings into her bag. Leaving her sunglasses on her seat and rushing towards the entrance she stopped mid tracks by a long line of tired passengers waiting impatiently for the doors to open.  
   The twenty-somethings in front of her, with partially shaved blonde hair and soft, army-type duffel bags had an air of light youth around them.  A homecoming from the trials of university to a summer without responsibility, perhaps.  Natascha bit her lip and brushed her mane away from her own scrutiny.  It was like peering through the looking glass of time to herself, many eons ago.
    The doors freed themselves of their tight union locked in with each other, to create space for the passengers to come through.  They shuffled off like a slow, well fed caterpillar.  As she descended onto the platform, the heat hit her, then enveloped her like a Hansel and Gretel oven. The station was all metal and tiled floors. A few random solos ambled across each other`s path. They looked like they had just been picked from no-man’s land to this backwater town.  Natascha glanced at the smarter than smart-phone, teasing her to find her way to the overpriced, stop-off hotel.  
     Outside the clinical, shiny terminal, a buffoon of a man, with a swollen belly like a ready-to-burst balloon, tanned like burnt toffee, shuffled past her schlepping a couple of dirty, canned beers with him.  She lumbered awkwardly with her case across the uneven pavements towards the river.
    Opening the portal into her temporary lodgings, she instantly smelt strong, washing powder starch, whiter than white and the cold emptiness of temporary stays.  Flinging the windows wide open, the menacing clouds layered upon ever increasing shades of fluffy flimsy charcoal. A bohemian terracotta church etched itself out more acutely, bringing out its Moorish dome of emerald and gold  defiantly against the ever shifting darkening sky.  A mistral blew over her moist skin.  Electric flashed before her eyes and the sliver white lightening divided the sky like crooked, stray branches.
    Natascha sealed the glass partitions shut as the zephyr gained speed.  Reluctantly she opened her email and wrote, “I am staying at the Metonymy hotel. If you can meet me in the bar, I will stay there till 23:00, I´ll be reading.  Hope to see you soon”.  
   Natascha closed the computer hermetically shut. Suddenly she realised she had his address.  She opened the computer like it was an oyster holding a pearl. Hastily, she typed in his address. Natascha caught her breath.  His house was right across her.  Over the river from her hotel.  So close?  Her heart pounded against what felt like a wall in place of her chest.  There wasn’t a safe distance between them.  No hiding now.
    The bar was empty, apart from a family with hair as black as obsidian huddled together on the shiny leather seats. The brother tossed a peanut into her sister's open mouth across the glass table.  "zundervar"! He exclaimed.
     Natascha recognised the familiar sound of Japanese cadences and what she always thought sounded like jigsaw shaped words. Those Tokyo nights came flooding back. She was instantly transported back to high-rise hotels looking over millions of fluorescent lights with lounge jazz pianos numbing away the city-life strains.  
     "Kampai"! The family shouted, clinking their coke and lemons together "Plost"! The father encouraged his family to join in with him"nani nani"? the daughter quizzed...her father tried again "Pllllvost...plllost" the family looked at each other puzzled as their father held up his glass to the central empty space across the table between them.  There was a pregnant pause before the family burst into laughter with recognition: "hai, hai..Pllost"! Natascha warmed to them, their efforts were hers once upon a time.
     She slid herself onto a high white leather chair up at the bar and ordered a Pinot Grigio, letting the cold, crisp Italian liquid run down her throat.  She turned the pages of her book and looked out into the night across at the river.  The Gothic apartment building stood strong and tall, reflecting its bedroom lights onto the ebony water.  A sense of peace and calm flooded over her, as she continued reading.  Each word read clear and prominent, like nothing else but that moment and those words on the page mattered.  Yet, a whisper called her out onto the balcony.  There was a long roll of thunder in distance like a fierce lion settling back into his cave for the night. 
      Out on the balcony Natascha felt the wind had become warmer again, yet still she felt traces of chill in the air.  She tried not to look across at the amber lights coaxing her nearer, but she couldn’t resist to turn her head and wonder, if he was there.  
        A man walked over the long curved bridge.  She followed him with her eyes, but he disappeared into the sleepy, dark town.  Natascha walked down to the edge of the river.  The Gothic building loomed over her and she felt small, yet calm, like a seed of warmth was growing inside her.
         She gazed up at the lights in the windows above her and followed their traces as they danced like cut coloured ribbons, fallen into the ebony water, before turning away.  It felt as if she was looking at herself from above. Wandering around in an empty void space, being watched as if she was his eyes.  From this view she looked so delicate, in her short, blue silk skirt and white top, with folded arms against the slight night chill, her hair covering her shoulders like a shawl.  
       Natascha could feel the resistance like a air pocket of pressure separating them. As she gazed across at the two curved bridges from the hotel over the blacker than night river, she could feel the undefinable distance that could not be bridged.  His defiance was too great, the pressure too tightly packed, not be released.  Yet, instead of her feeling anger, she felt protected.  Like she was being given a chance and space to become something more than she was before. 
     In her slow realisation, as she watched for any movement from the Gothic house, she thought he may be giving her something that she could take, that she never had before.  She had been too scared to claim this strength for her own.  He was giving her, subconsciously or not, the chance to become.        Natascha did not feel the kind of pain that she had felt before. Only peace and an ever growing strength could be found within her.  It began in the core of her being and was starting to emanate outwards like a dying star. In that death, the light shone out from her more than it had done before.  The more her fear and frustration died, the brighter and stronger she became.  Was it him giving her this? Or was it only that the space that lay between them, allowed her to become.
     Back in her room, it no longer felt empty, but full of possibility.  She may be alone, but she did not feel lonely, only tired and in need of rest. Natascha sat down to write only one simple email “I will be here for Breakfast and then I will leave for the lake, if you want to join me, see you there at 9am”.  
     The following morning, as she walked into the breakfast room. People busied around the delicacies with a sort of feverish urge as if they hadn't eaten for days.  Natascha felt surprisingly hungry and helped herself to Bergamont tea and fresh, warm croissants.  Finding a table on the now sunny balcony in the morning heat, she took a newspaper and devoured the words, eating her breakfast with the hunger of a wolf.  Behind the shield of her blonde hair stood the same Gothic building from the night before.  However, now,  turning to look at it, across the river, she saw it to be just a cold and empty slate grey house, as silent as if it were mourning and yet that grief stood alone, for Natascha only felt light and calm palliation.  

This was her morning.  Defiantly she left the hotel, like a broken horse, once wild, now again turned free. She took the train east, to the lake.  Walking through the dry, bright morning heat, she found her way to the edge of the water.  Taking off her clothes she waded past the children playing in the cloudy shallow water and swam out to it's depths.  There she felt her halcyon; strong and suspended out within the depths, almost naked with only her own power. Waves of fear that arose soon dissipated as she kept swimming, till she found a wooded jetty.  She pulled herself up with her new found strength within her arms to the sounds of healthy, youthful voices chatting away in warmth.  
       Natascha spread out her still, young body on the warm wood and let the summer sun dry her skin.  As she sat up she saw a school of carp, orange and silver gather around her feet.  As the carp danced and circled in the emerald water, Natascha remembered a fable about carp symbolised luck after periods of great difficulty.  Jumping back into the water the carp spread, circling around her as she found her way back home.